17.9.06

Sunday Scribblings: Research

It’s funny. If I think, “I should write a story!” I can never really come up with anything worth writing about that’s small enough to encapsulate in one story. But when someone says, Hey! Write something about a thief and have it done by Sunday! Suddenly I’m able to come up with a small nugget of a story that I bash out to completion. This is why I love Sunday Scribblings so much. It’s also why I’m stuck this week. I always research my stories to some extent. This week we have to research something. But research what? I can’t come up with anything. Instead I wrote this little essay on the supposed virtues of ignorance. After the essay I was going to mention some of the research I did for each of my stories, but that seemed a bit self-indulgent. I may post that later, separately. So this is it. I think I’ll try and come up with a story off my own back later in the week, because I’ve just not found the last two prompts conducive to story writing.

Ignorance as a Virtue

Recently I have repeatedly been coming across works of art that have been propounding ignorance as a virtue. Of course, they never express it this way - never tell you to stick your head in the sand, close your eyes, cover your ears, stay indoors and burn your books - instead they tell you that you should have faith; you should trust your leaders; you should expect the universe to conform to your desires; you should be careful because this knowledge is dangerous; you shouldn’t be so predatory as to want to know this, to want to shine the harsh light of knowledge that dispels our romantic fancies and makes everything ugly. Wanting to understand something more deeply is compared to wanting to suck the life out of it; sending probes into space is compared to rape (I wish I was making that up).

Considering a flower as a living organism, taking nourishment from the soil and air and sun, made up of millions of intricate cells, dependent on bees and worms and germs that are in turn dependent on it, the product of millions of years of co-evolution - is considered to be robbing the flower of its beauty. The flower, we are told, is more beautiful if we think of it merely as a mysterious splotch of colour, or as the work of a mysterious painter. The word mystery is often abused. When we delve into the mystery and uncover a hundred more mysteries, and delve into those mysteries and uncover a thousand more each, we are told that we should have just left it at the first mystery - even if those who make this argument often also believe that first mystery is solved by a single word such as God or Nature or dryads or fairies.

The people who propound ignorance as a virtue often loathe mystery. They hate to really look at the world because they are afraid that they may not be able to wrap it up neatly in a parcel. They may be surprised, they may find that the fairies must be much more amazing than they ever thought they were, they may find that much of the flower’s strength seems to come from itself and not from little winged people, they may find that flowers are not what they thought they were.

I reject the idea that ignorance is a virtue on purely aesthetic grounds. The world that we see when we try and really find out what it is like is much more beautiful than the world we are often deluded into thinking we live in - deluded by our weak senses and clouded minds. It is a world that is strong and certain of itself, indifferent to conforming to our hopes and fears. And it is so much more mysterious than it seems. We may only ever be able to understand it in approximate terms, our imaginations straining in both directions to build both our inner and outer worlds.

I also reject ignorance on moral grounds. If you are doing something that is hurting someone, you have a duty to want to know this fact. Ignorance is no excuse, and the desire to remain ignorant is a crime. If your leaders are doing things in your name, you should demand to know what these things are. If you do not then you are complicit in their actions, even if you would disapprove of them if you knew.

This week’s prompt at Sunday Scribblings is to research a topic. Obviously, I rather endorse the sentiment. Obviously, I still have no idea just what to research.

7 comments:

LuluBunny said...

This is an all around great post!!

I found the prompt really difficult, and in the end sort of gave up and wrote a real, 'whatever' sort of ditty.

I loved what you wrote about ignorance! :)

zhoen said...

Oh, but being a head in the sand know-it-all is so much easier.

commongal said...

We have a real problem, as you know, with anti-intellectualism in the U.S. Our own president finds it okay to indulge his inability to pronounce the word, "nuclear" among others. As if it's cool to do poorly in all things "school". Great idea, and I especially agree that knowledge increases mystery. My own depression makes it hard for me to think of flowers much, right now, but I have always enjoyed imagining the microcosms within microcosms in our world. Makes the world seem all the more alive.

Roadchick said...

The 'chick is right there with you...research? Fun! But what to research...left to her own devices, it was a little too overwhelming to make any sense of it at all.

paris parfait said...

Nice post. And the trio of ignorance, poverty and oppression are what fuel much of the world's troubles.

Michelle said...

Well done! Your description of the flower pretty much sums up why I believe in God. I've never understood why God and science can't get along.

People are very, very afraid of knowledge. Our creation story, taken literally, warns us against it.

My problem with this prompt is what don't I research? I am looking up things every day.

tinker said...

Well put, Pacian. Research, gathering information and gaining knowledge is important.
However, I need focus. I'm still trying to decide on just one topic to research. One topic seems to lead to another, and another...but perhaps that's the point?